Models pose with bottled and canned "Blue Girl" beers, manufactured by OB, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the products' launch in Hong Kong at the Harbor Grand Hong Kong Hotel, April 4. / Courtesy of OB
This is the third in a series of articles on Korean food companies and restaurants seeking to expand overseas. ― ED.
OB Beer CEO: Jang In-soo
Bottled and canned beers manufactured by Korea's Oriental Brewery Company (OB) are best sellers in Hong Kong, far exceeding China's premium brand Tsingtao, Heineken from the Netherlands and Budweiser from the United States in market share.
OB's product, branded "Blue Girl," is distributed by local agent Jebsen Group and priced higher than other beer brands due to the agent's premium marketing scheme. OB has kept the leadership in sales for six consecutive years with a 12 percentage gap in market share with the runner-up brand SKOL imported from Brazil. Blue Girl's market share is 22.4 percent as of September last year.
"The biggest contributor to the strong leadership is flavor," said Lee Eun-ah, a spokeswoman for OB Beer. "Unlike many other Southeast Asian countries, Hong Kong people love to drink beer with high alcohol content and slight bitterness, which is typical flavor of European beer. Out products meet them all without flaw."
Lee said the local distributor has also aggressively pushed forward with promotional campaigns and TV commercials to help increase public awareness of the products.
Blue Girl was first exported to Hong Kong in 1988 under the original development manufacturing (ODM) contract, under which Jebsen holds an exclusive right when it comes to branding.
Its sales records in the first few years were humble. But aggressive marketing campaigns, coupled with efforts to improve flavor, put the products in the first place of the market for the first time in 2007 with a 14 percent market share.
In the first year of the exports, OB shipped 470,000 boxes, each containing 20 500-milliliter-bottles, to the city state. The number jumped to 16.9 million in 1998 and reached 3.15 million in 2008. Last year, the company exported a staggering 4.11 million boxes of Blue Girl to Hong Kong.
Last week, the two companies jointly hosted an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the brand's launch in Hong Kong and their representatives vowed closer cooperation in order to cement the lead.
"Hong Kong's beer market is small but winning first place there is very meaningful in that Hong Kong is a market where nearly 200 beer brands from all around the world wage fierce competition," said Park Chul-soo, an OB Beer executive in charge of overseas sales. "Our achievement in Hong Kong shows that Korean beer is not falling behind those from Europe and the U.S. in terms of quality."
OB is now desperate to extend its international presence with own brands ― CASS and OB Golden Larger. "CASS is selling very well in Mongolia," the OB spokeswoman said. "On top of this, we are seeking to good performance in other Southeast Asian countries and Australia with OB Golden Lager. We have good start."
The combined number of beer boxes OB exported last year was 17.78 million. The target for this year is 18.6 million.